Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Suprised by Faith: A book review

By Robert Tewart

Book Review: Surprised by Faith Don Bierle PhD
Dr. Don Bierle holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in the life sciences and an M.A. in New Testament Studies. As a research scientist he was a team member on scientific expeditions to both the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions. As an educator and academic dean, Dr. Bierle has been active for 30 years teaching biology, Bible, and worldview subjects in the college classroom. He has spoken at conferences around the world such as the Marshall Islands in the south Pacific, Amsterdam 2000, the Philippines, and throughout India.
He has also published several articles in scientific journals, is the author of Surprised by Faith (now available in Spanish, Russian, and eleven other languages) and other books Dr. Bierle has an unusual ability to analyze technical, scientific and theological subjects, and to communicate them in a clear, original and fascinating way. In his book Surprised by Faith, Bierle covers three crucial areas concerning the reliability of the Holy Bible textually. It’s a short read at only about 100 pages, but it’s jammed packed with solid apologetics for historical evidence for the reliability of what lies within the pages of scripture. He also eventually gets to the root in asking what we now do with that evidence. The bottom line is the spiritual aspect we all face whether our intellects are satisfied or not.
Manuscript Evidence

The first thing Bierle investigates has to do with the number of New Testament manuscripts there are in existence compared to other ancient works. This is important to establish continuity in manuscripts. See the Diagram below. Keep in mind how much other writings of antiquity are taught as fact in our schools.
Then he looks at time interval. This compares several ancient works with the New Testament in regard to elapsed periods of time between the original and existing copies. This has a great potential impact on the veracity of the writings. See the diagram below.

Lastly, the author examines the accuracy of the manuscripts. This has everything to do with how diligently the scribes worked making handwritten copies by comparing newer copies to the oldest in existence. He also examines any inaccuracies or “distortions” in light of whether it be spelling, grammar, or meaning and the consequences of such inconsistencies. See the last diagram below.
The rest of the book is dedicated to what we do with all of this evidence. “Is Jesus really God,” “Is Faith Reasonable,” and “Where Am I” are among the remaining chapters.

I found this to be a quick read and definitely a great “entry level” book on apologetics. I recommend it to anyone who would enjoy a short but powerful read from a highly qualified author. It will give you some practical and fairly simple arguments to defend the textual reliability of the Bible.

Note: I apologize for the crooked images. Hey--I'm no Tim Challies!


Anonymous said...

Wow those charts are awesome. I knew the Bible was historically accurate. But not to this extent. Especially in comparison to other historical documents

Robert Tewart said...

Thanks! Yeah, the graphics are compelling especially in the light of how the other works are taught as solic fact. Truth is, so much of Aristotle (for example,) could in reality be fiction. Actually, I've had that book for several years. Just dug it up going through my stuff.

Anonymous said...

I have heard this info but to see the graphs really helped make clear the message. Does anyone know of any tracts that lay this out so clearly?

Robert Tewart said...

Well Anon, I haven't seen any tracts with this diagram. Tracts are not really supposed to be an apologetic but a call to the conscience by proclaming the Gospel. People are not won by apologetical arguments. They are really much more secondary for follow up or strengthening of faith. If a person is convinced by a graph made by a fallible man, then another smarter atheist man may be able to win them back. Doesn't make sense,does it?

I could see running the graphs off and handing them out with tracts. Maybe some of the Science based ones from Living Waters. On the other hand, I could see these as great ice-breakers on college campuses. Maybe you could say "excuse me, but I'm just asking students randomly if they believe what they are being taught in their philosophy classes about Plato, Aristotle or other personalities of antiquity?" Then hand them the graph and ask what they think about that. As long as you eventually get to the Gospel. Don't take too long to do this though--maybe no longer than 3 to 5 minutes into the conversation.